Danilo Miguel: The Innovation Interview

Danilo Miguel, General Manager of Il Corso in New York City shares his thoughts and insights on how technology and innovation are impacting the restaurant business.

Prior to commencing his career in the restaurant business, Danilo worked as a High School and College teacher in Brazil until 1999. In January 2000, he moved to New York, NY to study computer design.

In 2002 he attended sommelier and cooking school prior to joining Il Corso in March of 2003 as a manager. During this time he also managed two other restaurants within the same company: La Vineria and La Locanda dei Vini, both located in New York City.

How do you define innovation and what does it mean to you?

Innovation for me is a process of taking an original idea and working with it to create something better or more useful. I don’t believe that it should be applied to everything.

What industry needs to embrace innovation and take more risks?

Older industries definitely need to embrace innovation to succeed. In the hospitality business, innovation has to be applied gradually. Things such as a seated dinner with friends and family have not been significantly changed for centuries. Any sudden change in this process would be difficult to be accepted.

What is the best piece of advice that you have been given and received?

The best piece of advice that I have learned over the years is to not make quick judgments of  a customer regarding appearance and behavior. It is necessary to figure it out the wants and needs of a customer and how to successfully adapt to each individual patron.

What is your greatest achievement and why?

My greatest achievement would be working in an Italian restaurant for the past 12 years while not being Italian nor having any knowledge of the restaurant business and to be able to manage successfully.

Newspapers and Books: Digital or Physical?

I prefer digital. In today’s world it is much more convenient and precise especially when reading about contemporary news.

What impact have services such as OpenTable had on the business?

Services such as open table make a business more organized and help to better promote and expose the business to new customers, locals, and even foreign customers.

Have you ever thought about eliminating paper menus and creating interactive food and wine menus that would allow you to offer a highly interactive experience for the customer?

Even though I am constantly upgrading my own technology, I strongly disagree with the use of digital menus. I believe the dining experience should be a human interaction. It’s important to have a knowledgeable and well trained server to help guide a customer to an enjoyable dining experience.

The customer service provided at the restaurant is unparalleled. Each guest is warmly welcomed and all repeat diners are treated like family. Was this a conscious decision?

No, it was actually the complete opposite. It was unnatural for the staff to behave differently. We are lucky to have a team that didn’t need to fake their feelings for the customers.

In an age where people are fascinated by molecular gastronomy and other gastronomic trends, the cuisine at Il Corso remains very much true to itself and to Italian cuisine. Do you ever feel pressured to keep up with trends?

We do not feel the pressure because we know our limitations and abilities not only of our business, but also our customers. Starting a new trend such as molecular gastronomy could be very risky with the kind of clientele who we attract.

Companies such as Google, eBay and Square are changing the payments world. Is Il Corso currently experimenting with NFC, PayPal or Square technologies? If so, what are your thoughts on these new payment options?

I understand and even use these payment options in different businesses, but I  do not believe that its suits the restaurant in today’s world.